"ROBBED OF THEIR LANDS, AND STILL WORSE, OF THEMSELVES": LIMITED FIRST EDITION, VERY RARE ASSOCIATION COPY OF ARMISTEAD'S MONUMENTAL TRIBUTE FOR THE NEGRO, 1848, WITH 12 ENGRAVED PLATES INCLUDING PORTRAITS OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO, FREDERICK DOUGLASS AND CINQUE OF THE ARMISTAD, WITH THE OWNER SIGNATURE AND INSCRIPTION OF LEADING 19TH-CENTURY BLACK AUTHOR, LAWYER, PUBLISHER AND CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, JOHN WESLEY CROMWELL
ARMISTEAD, Wilson. A Tribute for the Negro: Being a Vindication of the Moral, Intellectual, and Religious Capabilities of the Coloured portion of Mankind… Manchester: William Irwin, 1848. Thick octavo, original full gilt-stamped black morocco, all edges gilt. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $12,500.
Limited first edition of the English abolitionist's major work against "the most extensive and extraordinary system of crime the world ever witnessed," one of an unspecified number in publisher's morocco, a rare association copy featuring the owner signature and inscription of 19th-century Black leader John Wesley Cromwell, born enslaved, who became a leading attorney, author and publisher, signed by him with his date of 1914, with the inscription honoring his daughter, reading: "Bought in London by Otelia Cromwell when visiting that city during the first month of the great war—a present to her father," additionally signed below by his granddaughter Adelaide Cromwell Hill. Armistead's exceptional volume features over 50 biographies of leaders such as Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass, along with engraved frontispiece and eleven engraved plates including portraits of Equiano, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Douglass and Cinque of the Amistad, a facsimile of a letter signed by Toussaint and this limited edition's two additional places, original morocco with gilt vignette on the front board of a manacled slave with the abolitionist motto, "Am I Not A Man And A Brother.”
One of Britain's preeminent 19th-century abolitionists, Armistead was president of the Leeds Anti-Slavery Association and chief financial backer for the Anti-Slavery Advocate. He provided sanctuary for fugitive slaves from the U.S. in the 1840s and 50s, and a platform for African Americans such as Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown, who praised Armistead for hastening "the day of the slave's liberation." An influenial Quaker, he also supported lectures in England by William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Tribute to the Negro, his magnum opus, brings together biographies of over 50 Africans, African Americans, and figures of African descent as it foregrounds the influence of pioneers such as Olaudah Equiano, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown. This impressive volume also includes excerpts from key slave narratives and a lengthy biography of L'Ouverture, hailed by Armistead as "one of the most remarkable men" of his time."
This very rare association copy offers an exceptional provenance in possessing the inscription and owner signature of leading 19th-century African American lawyer, educator, author and civil rights activist John Wesley Cromwell. Born enslaved in 1846 and freed by his father in 1851, he was prominently featured in Men of Mark (1887), along with Douglass, Henry Highland Garnet, William Still and others. On graduating from Howard University Law School in 1874 and serving in the government, Cromwell delivered a keynote speech at the 1875 meeting of the Virginia Educational and Literary Association, which was later published as Address on the Difficulties of the Colored Youth In Obtaining an Education (1875). He served as publisher and editor of People's Advocate for nearly a decade, and was co-founder and president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, "whose meetings attracted Douglass and other leading black scholars and activists." Cromwell's 1897 essay in the Southern Workman "hailed the new trade school at Hampton," and while he early endorsed "Booker T. Washington's vision of black education… Cromwell came to believe that African American leaders should subordinate the quest for education and material success to seeking political solutions to racial problems." A major co-founder of the American Negro Academy, Cromwell had a lifelong interest in book collecting that led to a close friendship with Arthur Schomburg. "In 1915 the two men helped organize the Negro Book Collectors Exchange" (Encylopedia Virgina). Cromwell, who died in 1927, also authored influential works such as Jim Crow Negro (1904), Negro in American History (1914), Challenge of the Disfranchised (1924), and articles for Journal of Negro History, including Aftermath of Nat Turner's Insurrection (1920). Cromwell's inscription memorializes the book as a gift from his daughter Otelia Cromwell, who was the first African American graduate of Smith College and received her PhD from Yale in 1926. Below Cromwell's inscription is the later owner signature of Adelaide Cromwell Hill, Cromwell's granddaughter and Otelia Cromwell's niece. In 1974 Cromwell Hill, who authored major works on Black history, became the first African American appointed Library Commissioner in Massachusetts. With engraved frontispiece and eleven engraved plates, including portraits of Equiano, L'Ouverture, Douglass and Cinque of the Amistad, a facsimile of a letter signed by Toussaint L'Ouverture, and two engraved plates of slave auctions noted as issued with this "morocco edition." This copy as issued with "View of a Temple" plate before the preface (instead of "304" in the "List of Portraits"). Sabin 2007. Work, 570.
Interior very fresh with minimal archival repair to margins of preliminary leaves, expert reinforcement to spine ends and corners of bright original morocco. A handsome near-fine copy of this seminal work with a distinguished African American provenance.